Become power-savvy with IOL and Urban Earth

Director of Urban Earth Margaret McKenzie. Picture: Supplied

Director of Urban Earth Margaret McKenzie. Picture: Supplied

Published May 19, 2021


South Africans saw several price increases that came into effect on 1 April this year, from petrol and diesel to alcohol and cigarettes. It could not get any worse for a country crippled by endemic corruption, staggering unemployment, increasing food prices and a pandemic still ravaging the planet.

Just as we thought the dust had settled, the National Energy Regulator allowed power utility, Eskom, to increase its electricity tariffs by 15.63%, a rise almost 4 times above inflation.

This increase will hit middle-income households the hardest but worry not, there are numerous ways that we can reduce our energy consumption which saves money and the planet.

There are several different ways to reduce your homes energy use, these can be simple behavioural changes to extensive home improvements such as installing proper heat insulation and solar panels.

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The two major motives for saving power are to reduce electricity bills and to help protect the environment. To help us understand this a bit better, I grabbed a coffee with Margaret McKenzie, Director of Urban Earth.

Urban Earth is a cutting-edge consultancy firm offering sustainable solutions to environmental problems.

Working primarily with local governments and municipalities, Urban Earth offer services such as sustainable policy and strategy development, the development of accessible communication materials for communities and the education of individuals who would be able to facilitate the sustainable development of their respective communities.

“Sustainability is a broad topic and we’ve always wanted to offer more training and education in the field of sustainability. Many aspects of the subject can be quite technical, and it can be difficult for most people to understand certain areas of sustainability and how to implement or integrate strategies into their homes or everyday lives, ” says McKenzie.

Explaining the reasoning behind their 90 minute-long 1 and a half sustainability micro-courses, “We considered doing something like this many years ago, but it proved difficult to find a model that would work and be easy for people to engage with. Then Covid hit and more and more people were required to work or study from home due to lockdowns. These individuals became familiar and comfortable using online platforms for meetings and classes so now seemed to be the best time to introduce the online classes that we have on offer.”

“Urban Earth sent out surveys in order to obtain feedback as to which courses people would be keen on doing and found overwhelming interest in two key areas, solar energy in the home and saving energy at home.

“Having a solar power system at home is very different from just turning on your light switch, it would be very helpful for people to understand what exactly Solar PV Energy is, how to use it, how much do you need, can you afford it etc., concepts which are not particularly easy for the layman layperson to understand without assistance”.

McKenzie explained that solar energy, energy from the sun, is a renewable power source. A solar power system would convert the energy from the sun into electricity current that is stored in batteries ready to use. With supplies and installations becoming increasingly efficient and reliable, these systems are now more affordable to homeowners.

The Saving Energy in the Home course masterclass covers aspects such as home lighting, how much energy your appliances use, which are the most energy-efficient appliances and which are not, understanding wattage and reducing energy at home in general.

The skills taught in this course require no prior knowledge of home energy use and can be implemented in any residential space. This course is perfect for anyone with bills to pay.

* Margaret McKenzie and Urban Earth have given all IOL readers a special discount code (UE100) which can be redeemed when enrolling for one or both courses. More information regarding course dates, booking and content can be viewed on the Urban Earth Training page website here.